Hello! My name is Joy DePuydt. I am a farmer/rancher from Saco, Montana. I have been involved in Farm Bureau about 10 years and recently was elected to the Montana Farm Bureau Board of Directors. I am succeeding my husband, Tom, who sat on the board for the past six years and started the Phillips County Farm Bureau in 2015.

MFBF ACEI think A.C.E. will help me learn the issues, communicate with those that may not always see eye to eye with agriculture and promote leadership. AFBF President Zippy Duvall and Bruce Vincent spoke to my heart at the MFBF annual convention. I had been asked to step up as the District 7 board member and didn’t feel I was deserving of that honor. I have spent 33 years of my life working as a nurse off the farm and not in the trenches of our day to day operation. I believed someone who knew agriculture inside and out should be sitting in that spot. Nobody stepped up! I believe in Farm Bureau and the wonderful people that work for and are part of the Farm Bureau family. Those mens' speeches told me I needed to step up and be active if nobody else was willing.

After completing ACE, I hope to utilize what I learned in the program to get more people involved. Phillips County Farm Bureau is a relatively new organization and one of the things I would like to do is have a large-scale membership drive to get more people involved and active in Farm Bureau. We need to find, recognize, and encourage leaders in our communities to get involved and speak up on whatever level they can and within whatever time frame they can give. I would like everyone to have a seat at the table. All voices matter and each of us has special gifts that need to be used and shared.

An issue critically important to farming and ranching is food safety. There are many people who are concerned about food safety. Agriculture is being targeted by groups who use false facts and scare tactics to get more support for their beliefs. Through A.C.E., I hope I learn the skills to listen intently, be empathetic to these concerns, keep my cool, and work with them to understand that we all want the same thing. We all want a safe, abundant food supply to feed the looming 8-10 billion people that are in the world and we need to work together for the common good. We need to respectfully discuss our concerns with our congressmen on a regular basis. We need to get to know them, develop trust with them, and let them know our concerns and wishes when they are voting on bills that affect us.

I would like to promote agriculture education in the classrooms across our county schools. I think we need to be educating all children on what we do and why we do it. They need to understand we care about them and the environment and that the food we produce is safe and abundant. I’m also an advocate for having farmers and ranchers visiting schools to read Ag Accurate books. Recently, I was introduced to the idea of being a pen pal to a classroom and writing letters and or sending actual farm/ranch videos to educate children on what we do throughout the year. At the end of the year, we visit the classroom to meet the kids and educate and answer questions.

I also think it would be great to formulate some type of panel discussion on agricultural concerns in the community. Consumers could voice their concerns and an expert panel could respectfully help answer their questions and start opening the doors to working collaboratively to help resolve their concerns. I think writing letters to the editor in our local papers regarding current ag issues using researched information could be very informative for the general public as well. I think the possibilities are endless, we just need do a little research, listen to what is needed and roll up our sleeves and get to work.

We are a very small group of individuals that make up this great country and our voices need to be heard. We are the fiber of the country. Most of the population doesn’t understand our way of life, our values, or realize we are educated individuals that take pride in what we do. We care about the environment and work every day to make it better. If we can get to the core of concerns and work to resolve them, we will have allies instead of enemies. Without leadership and advocacy skills our voices aren’t heard, and our way of life may very likely be threatened.